Drop-in Art is a group who sketch and paint each Monday. Seven or eight of us come just about every week. Five or six others come every once in a while. It’s always nice to have a new member and new work to take pleasure in.
We enjoy plenty of light-hearted moments, though mostly we work pretty quietly. Participants inspire each other with their work and also just by being present. It’s helpful to have somebody to surprise and be surprised by.
Our teacher, Elizabeth Milsom, is an accomplished artist. She’s a good strong anchor for the class. She’s a real art-lover and her taste and knowledge is broad. She can look at a participant’s work and feel where it’s coming from and see where it might run into trouble. But she prefers to let people make their own decisions. She’s spent thousands of hours working as an artist and knows that we need to occasionally slip-up in order to learn.
We have a few self-confessed perfectionists. Liz has often said that it’s important to teach yourself to recognise when your sketch or painting is finished. It’s important to be able to see the qualities already there and not become fixated on what could have been done differently, or with more detail, or a slightly different colour, etc.
Watching the colours people choose and return to is interesting. One student loves a kind of January-sky-blue: she whips up these lovely slightly surreal beachscapes. Another paints flowers in flamboyant purples and lime and orange and the like. Her colour schemes are intuitive and a little bit inverted and very much her own. Another is good at blending her colours and she works with a kind of painstaking pleasure. She loves foreshores and clouds, different sunlights and shadows. She’s almost eighty and her love of the natural world is rock solid. That goes for all the women. There are two who always sit side-by-side and they bring a lot of feeling to their landscapes. What could be nicer than seeing a mature woman’s take on a mountain or the moon, or a river, or even just figures strolling in a park?
Sometimes people spend a lot of time on a piece. Other times somebody finishes something very quickly. One of the real mainstays of the group paints swiftly. Liz uses the word ‘painterly’ to describe his paintings. They’re lush and bold and they have a cool open-endedness. Another gent uses watercolours and seems to work pretty fast, too. Sometimes he’ll even slap a satirical slogan on, just for fun.
Overall, we have a good mix of steady-as-she-goes composition and spontaneity.
Sometimes people at Drop-In paint from photographs, or reproduce famous pictures. It surprised me how much enjoyment people derive working this way. I’m sure the famous painters’ ghosts give their blessing to a room full of friendly souls paying homage.
I’ve been working in the class two years as a disability support worker. I got a bit of a shock when I rediscovered how much I like sketching and in particular, painting. Like a lot of adults I’d not thought much about it since I was a kid. It’s very tactile and freeing. I like abstractions with lots of ambiguities and colours and it’s healthy to let your subconscious hold court for a couple of hours.
When you see how much good a class like this does, when you see how much enjoyment it yields, it does make you pine for a policy-maker with the conviction to make funding more emphatic.